Saturday, September 30, 2006

Words That Kill

I learned a very important lesson today, which I would like to share on this Erev Yom Kippur.

Thursday, I received a copy of the Machzor Massoret HaRav. This morning, I finally had a chance to really sit with it. I started with the introduction, to see what the editors' conscious and stated motives were in producing the work. (Though I am very wary of falling victim to the Intentionalist Fallacy.) All of a sudden, my heart sank. My beloved teacher, Rabbi Dr. Isaiah Wohlgemuth is listed there as 'zl.' Now, I knew he'd been ill, but I could not believe that the Boston grapevine would have missed his passing.

After Shabbat, I checked the SSDI, but found nothing. I checked the Obituary Data bases, nothing. I finally wrote to some local landsleit to see if they'd heard anything. Both told me that Rabbi Wohlgemuth is in an old age home in New Jersey and still very much alive, though ailing.

I assume that this was an honest mistake. Nevertheless, I am still very shaken. What would it have required to check and see if someone is still with us before going to press?

Before pronouncing someone 'z'l' it behooves a writer to check his facts first.


Nachum said...


But what of the machzor itself?

YMedad said...

well, a segula for long life then.

Arnie Lustiger said...

Indeed, this was a terrible mistake on my part. I am not sure if R. Wohlgemuth has seen the machzor, but if so, if there is anyone who knows how or where to reach him, I would apologize personally.

Quite a few people have reviewed the introduction to the machzor before it went to print, and I am surprised that they did not catch this error.

Arnie Lustiger